These teachers in a low-income district found a genius way to meet with parents.

Eager to help parents understand what their kids were learning in school, teachers Brittany Harris and Colleen Ryan decided to bring school to them — with the help of a big red school bus.

"A lot of our parents don't have cars, or the shifts they work don't work with the schedule of time teachers are available at school, so this service allows convenience for them," Ryan explains.

Harris bought the old bus — which she and Ryan named The Passage — from a relative last fall after struggling to connect with families in her low-income Chattanooga, Tennessee, district.


The educators stocked it with tables, chairs, books, games, and iPads, and they took it on the road.

Ryan (left) and Harris on the bus. Photo by The Passage/Facebook.

Meetings on the bus last 30 minutes and focus on either math or reading.

One of the goals is to update parents, many of whom are unfamiliar with Common Core methods, on the new problem-solving techniques their children are using to do their homework.

Breakfast is often included — as are games, including math bingo, Trouble, and Legos.

Harris works with a student and parent on the bus. Photo by The Passage/Facebook.

"To hear the student talk about [how] the bus being at their house was the highlight of their weekend because they got to show their teacher their house is enlightening," Ryan says.

Harris initially paid for the mini-school-on-wheels out of her own pocket, an experience shared by many teachers who are increasingly expected to furnish their own school supplies.  

In 2015, K-12 educators spent an average of nearly $500 on furniture, cleaning supplies, poster board, and other essential items for their classrooms — not including side projects like The Passage.

Harris and Ryan shop for supplies at a local IKEA. Photo by The Passage/Facebook.

The project is now funded by several grants.

"We knew we wanted to do this no matter what," Ryan says.

Ryan credits The Passage for helping her and Harris integrate more deeply into the community where they work.

The educators have taken the bus to block parties and hosted group events, though being welcomed into their students' homes is often the highlight of a day on the road.

"It brings a whole new perspective to a teacher," she says.

Photo by The Passage/Facebook.

In addition to the grants that help furnish materials for the rolling classroom, the bus receives donated books and supplies.

The mobile learning lab is already showing results.

One boy who had trouble understanding some assignments did a 180 after Ryan and Harris came knocking on his door.

"[He] was great in math but struggled in reading," Ryan says. "With the bus, we taught him strategies of how to understand word problems even if he couldn't read it fully, which allowed him to pass his benchmark math test."

For some pupils, she explains, learning is about more than academics.

It's showing up that matters.

"A simple act of just going to a house can lift the lowest of spirits of a student."

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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